WASHINGTON, DC — With Ann and Don Butler in the lead, a group of about 13 Sampson and Duplin residents recently toured the National Geographic’s Photo Ark exhibit in Washington, DC to learn more about thousands upon thousands of animal species, photographer Joel Sartore and how both found their way to Sampson County, and eventually Sampson County found its way into the world-renowned exhibit.
Sartore, creator of Photo Ark and a National Geographic photographer, visited the Butlers’ aviary nearly two years ago, photographing some of their rare birds as part of his quest to create a photo archive of the world’s species before they disappear and, at the same time, to inspire people to care. Some of those birds found their way into the exhibit.
The Butlers, who were there for the opening night of the event back in November, were happy to show the group of budding photographers both the exhibit and their birds, delighting in telling Sartore’s story through the Photo Ark tour.
At times with their mouths agape as thousands of colorful animals scrolled across a moving wall of photographs, the group said they found the exhibit fascinating and the photographs breathtaking.
“I can’t even begin to imagine how he compiled this,” noted SCC photography instructor Gloria Edwards as she meandered the National Geographic exhibit hall staring at the animal portraits, many so lifelike it appeared as if a fox or a chimp might jump from the wall and join you.
“This is absolutely amazing,” exclaimed Clinton’s Jean McLeod as she watched first an assortment of birds and then reptiles scroll across the massive moving wall. “There are so many I can hardly keep up with them all.”
Aside from the mammoth moving display, gigantic wall-mounted photographs from Sartore’s collection stared back from every corner of the exhibit, enthralling the group as they stood for minutes gazing back at the vivid portraits.
“I can’t even find words to describe this,” said Lisa Turlington. “There’s so much, it’s hard to take it all in.”
Duplin’s Cindy Ivey agreed. “I don’t even know what to look at first. It’s all so beautiful, so well done. Wow, wouldn’t I love to be able to take photographs like this.”
Sartore has visited 40 countries in his quest to create this photo archive of global biodiversity. To date, he has completed intimate portraits of more than 6,000 species.
He has traveled to every continent and specializes in documenting endangered species and landscapes. Simply put, he is on a mission to document endangered species in order to show a world worth saving. “Every year I see more habitat loss, more species consumed for food, medicine or simply decoration,” says Sartore. “The Photo Ark was born out of desperation to halt, or at least slow, the loss of global biodiversity.”
Photo Ark is a multiyear National Geographic project with a simple goal — to create portraits of the world’s species before they disappear and to inspire people to care. Each image is a visual connection between the animals and people who can help protect them.
“You cannot walk through this exhibit and not be touched by these animals,” Amelia Surratt said. “It is hard to imagine the time it took to do all this, and to think he’s not even finished yet.”
The Butlers said they were honored to have their birds among Sartore’s exhibit and humbled that the assembled group had wanted to come to DC to see Sartore’s work and their birds.
“We have enjoyed being a part of this trip and showing this great group of people the exhibit, and Washington,” Don Butler noted. “We’ve had a great time.”
The exhibit ended April 10, but Sartore’s quest continues.
Reach publisher and editor Sherry Matthews at 910-249-4612. Follow her on Twitter @sieditor1960; follow the paper @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.